Where the Foo Fighters’ last album, 2011 Wasting Light, was focused heavily on its use of analogue in a digital industry, this album’s central theme is around the songwriting process and the band’s travels across the United States incorporating inspiration from the cities they visit into the songs that end up on the album.
And thus, Sonic Highways is born – as both an album and resulting 8-episode documentary television series on HBO. They traveled to eight cities, Chicago, Austin, Nashville, Los Angeles, Seattle, New Orleans, Washington, and New York, recording in some of music’s most legendary studios to help commemorate the band’s 20th anniversary and create something memorable out of the experience.
With producer Butch Vig back at the knobs, the band, whose lead singer probably stands as the closest we have to a rock god in today’s music – seriously, Dave Grohl is never wrong, and if I don’t agree with him on something, it’s because I’m wrong – don’t stray too far from their signature sound on Sonic Highways. And with such potentially vast influences from the cities with history that covers nearly the entire musical spectrum, along with musical guests on each track ranging from Zac Brown to Joe Walsh to Ben Gibbard, we’re spared an album that jumps all over the place.
Instead, it’s a pretty on-point and focused record with just a few points throughout having more noticeable qualities. What Did I Do/God As My Witness, for example, was written and recorded in Austin, Texas, and has a clear southern rock sound reminiscent of what came out of there in 70s rock n roll. Outside, from their California stop, sounds more slickly modern than the band usually does.
Even as rock continues to shift toward the encompassment of synthetic sounds and instruments, Sonic Highways sticks with the band’s statute of keeping guitar and bass front and centre for the whole thing and once again, Grohl finds a way to celebrate that in the creation of a record.
First single Something From Nothing brings together their finest qualities, giving enough of an indication that they can and do single-handedly carry rock n roll with Dave’s crazed vocals, the crunching guitar and the melodic bass line. That song is one of their best in years and stands tall alongside others like Best Of You and All My Life.
Sonic Highways can be summed up as more of the same as it doesn’t open up anything new and likely won’t go down as a classic record, even for the band who now has eight albums, but it’s done its duty. It’s a solid record that, at just 42 minutes across 8 tracks, is also a solid length with a few tracks that will extend beyond the life of the album.
1. Something From Nothing
2. The Feast And The Famine
4. What Did I Do?/God As My Witness
6. In The Clear
8. I Am A River